Verifying aims to give sire Justify a Derby winner in his first crop (Photo by Coady Photography)
Unbeaten Triple Crown champion Justify rewrote the record book in his racing career. Now he could add to his historic profile by siring a Kentucky Derby (G1) winner in his first crop, and his promising colt Verifying gives him a chance.
Justify would join the super-exclusive club of Triple Crown winners to sire a Derby victor. Seattle Slew got 1984 Derby hero Swale, Count Fleet sired 1951 scorer Count Turf, and Gallant Fox’s son Omaha swept the Triple Crown in 1935. Omaha, who came along in his first crop, made the eight-year-old Gallant Fox the youngest stallion to have a Derby winner. Several others have since tied that record as eight-year-old sires with a Derby winner, and Justify will try to become the latest.
Verifying is also easy to root for because he is a half-brother to champion Midnight Bisou
. Here are 12 pedigree fun facts on the $775,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase:
1. Justify is the only Triple Crown winner who didn’t race at two.
Not only was Justify unraced at two, but he didn’t make his debut as a sophomore until Presidents’ Day weekend – Feb. 18, 2018. That put him on an exceedingly tight time table just to make the Kentucky Derby, never mind win it. After all, no horse since Apollo (1882) had won the Derby without racing as a juvenile. Yet Justify passed every test in a compressed schedule, winning all six starts in a span of fewer than four months.
The Santa Anita Derby (G1) was his one and only chance of earning a spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs, and he seized it with a three-length wire job. Splashing to victory in a sloppy Kentucky Derby, Justify bravely withstood pressure in the Preakness
(G1), and he had an easier time on the front end in the Belmont
(G1). He became the first since Hall of Famer Seattle Slew to remain perfect through the Triple Crown
. Unfortunately, unlike “Slew,” Justify was retired shortly afterward with an injury.
2. Justify’s first crop has made waves worldwide.
Standing alongside fellow Triple Crown star American Pharoah at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud, Justify has already sired noteworthy runners on four continents
. Aside from Verifying, his U.S. headliners include Nashua (G3) winner Champions Dream, Schuylerville (G3) scorer Just Cindy, Grade 2-placed stakes vixen Justique, and Arabian Lion, recently runner-up in the Lexington (G3). Among Justify’s winners in Japan, Triple Crown nominee Yuttitham looked like a budding star when last seen in December.
Interestingly, Justify’s progeny have also made a splash on turf here and abroad. In Ireland, Statuette turned heads by capturing last summer’s Balanchine (aka Airlie Stud) (G2) for Aidan O’Brien. And in Australia, his Group 2-winning daughter Learning to Fly was the second favorite for the rich Golden Slipper (G1), only to lose her rider in a rough trip and exit injured.
3. Justify hails from the Storm Cat branch of the Northern Dancer sire line.
Justify descends from supersire Storm Cat
through his son Hennessy
, the 1995 Hopeful (G1) victor and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
(G1) runner-up. Hennessy sired transatlantic champion Johannesburg
, who swept Grade/Group 1 races in four countries during his undefeated two-year-old season – Ireland’s Phoenix (G1), France’s Prix Morny (G1), England’s Middle Park (G1), and the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in a sensational dirt debut. He went winless in his three remaining starts, notably finishing eighth in the 2002 Kentucky Derby.
Johannesburg sired Scat Daddy, who scored his biggest wins in the 2006 Champagne (G1) and 2007 Florida Derby (G1). Scat Daddy was out of luck in that year’s Kentucky Derby, winding up a troubled 18th, and never raced again. A sire of international import who passed away at the young age of 11, Scat Daddy was responsible for the versatile Mendelssohn, track record-setting conqueror of the 2018 UAE Derby (G2), and brilliant turf sprinters Lady Aurelia, Caravaggio, and No Nay Never.
4. Justify is out of a mare by Hall of Famer Ghostzapper.
Justify’s dam (mother), Stage Magic, placed in four stakes including the 2011 Gardenia (G3) to champion Groupie Doll. (The Gardenia would be renamed the Groupie Doll in her honor in 2015.) Stage Magic was Broodmare of the Year for 2018; aside from Justify’s exploits, her first foal, The Lieutenant, won that year’s All American (G3) and placed in a trio of stakes, notably the Californian (G2) and Suburban (G2).
Stage Magic is by Hall of Famer Ghostzapper
, the 2004 Horse of the Year who won Grade 1 races from 6 1/2 furlongs to the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic
(G1) (in record time). Ghostzapper has likewise sired a range of top performers from champion female sprinters Goodnight Olive and Judy the Beauty to Dubai World Cup
(G1) star Mystic Guide and newly-crowned Canadian Horse of the Year Moira, one of his three Queen’s Plate winners (along with Holy Helena and Shaman Ghost). Ghostzapper also sired the dam of champion sprinter Drefong, who has Continuar in the Derby.
5. Verifying’s half-sister, Midnight Bisou, was voted champion older dirt female of 2019.
An earner of more than $3.9 million in her career, Midnight Bisou won or placed in all 21 starts over four seasons of racing. She broke her maiden in the 2018 Santa Ynez (G2), so all 13 of her wins came in graded stakes races. Midnight Bisou also captured that year’s Santa Anita Oaks (G1), Mother Goose (G2), and Cotillion (G1). That Cotillion came via the disqualification of champion Monomoy Girl, who beat Midnight Bisou in the Kentucky Oaks
(G1) and Breeders’ Cup Distaff
At her peak in 2019, Midnight Bisou went on a seven-race winning spree highlighted by the Apple Blossom H. (G1), Ogden Phipps (G1), and Personal Ensign (G1). She was even in the discussion for Horse of the Year, until her hitherto perfect season ended with a second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, but she had done enough for the divisional Eclipse Award. Next seen finishing second to Maximum Security in the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup
in 2020, Midnight Bisou galloped in the Fleur de Lis (G2). She was overturned by a neck in her Personal Ensign title defense, which turned out to be her finale.
6. Verifying and Midnight Bisou’s dam starred at Tampa Bay Downs.
Verifying and Midnight Bisou are out of Diva Delite, who swept the three-year-old fillies’ series at Tampa Bay Downs in 2010.
The hardy Florida-bred raced 11 times as a juvenile at Calder, where she improved in the second half of 2009. Diva Delite continued her upward swing through the winter at Tampa. Rolling in the seven-furlong Gasparilla S., she stretched back to two turns and rallied smartly in the Suncoast S. and Florida Oaks (G3).
Diva Delite brought a five-race winning streak to Keeneland, where she closed belatedly for third in the Beaumont (G3). She raced only once more, clipping heels in a spill in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2). Diva Delite earned $300,067 from her record of eight wins and seven placings from 17 starts.
7. Diva Delite’s sire, Repent, was a major winner on the 2002 Derby trail.
Diva Delite’s sire, Repent
, won preps on the road to the 2002 Kentucky Derby, but he missed the Run for the Roses due to injury. Runner-up to Justify’s ancestor Johannesburg in the Breeders’ Cup, Repent took his next three – the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), Risen Star (G3), and Louisiana Derby (G2). He was knocked off the trail following his distant second in the Illinois Derby (G2) to War Emblem, the future Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero. Repent returned to action in the Travers
(G1), missing by only a half-length to Medaglia d’Oro.
8. Repent is a son of 1996 Preakness winner Louis Quatorze.
Repent is by Louis Quatorze
, the 1996 Preakness victor who placed in a series of major events. Just missing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he edged Hall of Famer Cigar
for second, Louis Quatorze also chased the likes of Hall of Famer Skip Away, Maria’s Mon, Unbridled’s Song, and Justify’s ancestor Hennessy.
Louis Quatorze is by the Northern Dancer stallion Sovereign Dancer. Thus Verifying is bred on the cross of Northern Dancer over Northern Dancer; so is Justify, since Ghostzapper also represents another branch of the same sire line. Indeed, the 1964 Kentucky Derby champion lurks throughout Verifying’s ancestry, as we’ll see again below.
9. Verifying’s grandmother is by the same sire as the Derby Museum’s Phantom on Tour.
Diva Delite is out of stakes-placed Tour Hostess, who scrounged up $215,356 in a 66-race career that ended just after she turned nine.
Tour Hostess is by Tour d’Or, a minor stakes winner but placed to a few heavyweights in much bigger events. Tour d’Or was beaten only a length by Broad Brush in the 1987 Trenton H. (G3), finished third to Waquoit and Broad Brush in the Massachusetts H. (G2), and came within a neck of upsetting the 1990 Gulfstream Park H. (G1).
A Florida stallion, Tour d’Or sired a few major winners including Phantom on Tour, the 1997 Rebel (G3) hero and Kentucky Derby sixth who later became a popular resident at the Derby Museum
; multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Take d’Tour; and Express Tour, who denied Street Cry in the 2001 UAE Derby (G3).
10. Tour d’Or is by a champion son of Secretariat whose dam was mysteriously kidnapped.
Tour d’Or’s sire, Medaille d’Or, is a blueblood son of 1973 Triple Crown legend Secretariat and Canadian Hall of Famer Fanfreluche, by Northern Dancer.
Medaille d’Or was Canada’s champion two-year-old colt of 1978, the third Sovereign Award winner produced by Fanfreluche after Horse of the Year L’Enjoleur and champion filly La Voyageuse. Fanfreluche’s influence in pedigrees has only grown over the years, through such far-flung descendants as Encosta de Lago, Flying Spur, Russian Revolution, and Holy Roman Emperor.
Yet Fanfreluche is often remembered for being kidnapped from Claiborne Farm
in the summer of 1977, while back in foal to Secretariat. She was eventually recovered about six months later in good shape, and produced her colt, aptly named Sain et Sauf (“safe and sound”).
11. Verifying carries a duplication of the well-bred stallion Baldski.
Although Baldski’s only stakes win came in a minor event at Calder, he transmitted the heritage of his outstanding relatives at stud. His sire is the last English Triple Crown winner, Nijinsky II, Northern Dancer’s greatest son. Baldski is out of Broodmare of the Year Too Bald, who is also the dam of transatlantic star Exceller and champion Capote.
Baldski appears twice here via Voodoo Lily, the great-grandmother of Justify, and T.N.T. Gal, in Verifying’s direct maternal line. As that suggests, Baldski has exerted a long-lasting influence through his daughters, and he factors in the pedigrees of Better Talk Now, Mecke, Beautiful Pleasure, Include, and 2015 Kentucky Oaks victress Lovely Maria.
12. Verifying’s female line traces to the celebrated 18th-century mare Selima.
Verifying traces his matrilineal ancestry to the great Selima, a British-bred daughter of the Godolphin Arabian who was imported to Maryland in 1750. Laurel Park honors her memory with the Selima S. for juvenile fillies. This clan, belonging to family No. 21, has produced 1908 Derby scorer Stone Street, and more significantly, Hall of Famer and leading sire Hanover.